THEATER REVIEW: ‘Almost, Maine’ thaws chill with laughter

Almost, Maine/ Ghent Playhouse

JOHN CARIANI’S AMOST, MAINE is two cups Saturday Night Live, a teaspoon of Wizard of Oz, plus a pinch of Charles Ludlum. It is fetchingly directed by Ghent’s artistic director, Cathy Lee-Visscher.

At the Playhouse last Friday, a cast-friendly opening night audience had a roaring good time with these short, mostly two-person sketches. They all concern some unlikely twenty/thirty-something romances.

The “play” should make Cariani rich. Forever, young actors will buy up scripts for acting class. (Short and punchy is hard to find.)

This production is blessed with a born-funny actor plus some good actors who can deliver funny.

Born-funny is Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon, who occasionally milks a laugh, but basically lets it all flow out of character. His gift is reminiscent of a young Nathan Lane.

Meaghan Rogers and Prudence J.M. Theriault are strong in three roles each. Todd Hamilton and Sarah Elizabeth Lomerson seem less experienced and less believable. The five of them divide 19 different roles.

My favorite segments involved…

Schane-Lydon and Hamilton in a hilarious sketch that tops the evening: Two beer-from-the-can

best buddies fall into an unthinkable mutual attraction.

Schane-Lydon (touching and funny as a mentally-challenged man) and Rogers (as a woman

suffering from a bad marriage) engage.

Rogers as an irresistible tough virgin having a magical awakening. (Snow White should get such a jolt.)

Theriault as a marriage-weary woman too smart for her wimpy mate. (Each of the segments has a sort of action-as-punch-line at the end. This one could be revised.) Theriault’s confident, cheery waitress is terrific as well.

The set by Bill Visscher is attractive and convincingly northern-Maine chilly, although one may miss the impeccable design sense of Tom Detwiler, former Playhouse artistic director and occasional set designer. On opening night, the back door wobbled, and set changes took too long, as they frequently do in theaters without Disney dollars.

Joanne Maurer’s winter duds were “almost” unnoticeable–as they ought to be. (In Columbia County we have them in our closets.)

Grace Fay with her northern-lights backdrop, stars and planets, and unobtrusive scene-lighting

does her job well, as usual.

There is a solid core of efficient and talented community doers at the Ghent Playhouse. They include most of those named above plus Judy Staber, Paul Leyden, Wendy Power Spielmann, Vivian Wachsberger and her excellent box-officers, and a bevy of pleasant ushers. They create warmth. Even when the play is slight, the “community” is not. Columbia County newcomers as well as long-time residents should partake.

Almost, Maine runs through February 3. Contact www.ghentplayhouse.org or 800 838-3006.

 

 

 

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